Researchers plan to take nicotine cure to smokers

ALEX FENSOME
Last updated 05:00 16/01/2014

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Shopping for a bargain at the mall? Why not try some nicotine replacement therapy.

A new stall set up in Lower Hutt's Queensgate Mall aims to make quitting easy and enjoyable.

It is the brainchild of Otago University Wellington researcher Brent Caldwell, who will be spending the next few months hanging out in shopping malls around the lower North Island to get his message across.

It was the first time nicotine replacement had been actively promoted in the community and shown as an enjoyable alternative to smoking, he said.

"It's really important for it to be face-to-face. We can show you how best to use [replacements] and increase your positive experience."

The stall has a breathalyser to test the amount of carbon monoxide in the breath - a sure sign of someone with a smoking habit. It also has sample nicotine inhalers, sprays, gum, sweets and patches for quitters to try.

The message is that cravings can be satisfied safely and enjoyably without reaching for a pack of smokes.

The programme has received $757,466 from the Ministry of Health's Pathway to Smokefree New Zealand 2025 Innovation Fund, which supports new solutions to help people quit.

The stall will be in the Queensgate Mall for six months. Others are to be set up in Porirua's North City Mall and in Palmerston North and nearby towns such as Dannevirke.

Dr Caldwell and his group from the university's Department of Medicine also plan to visit parks and other public places over the next year.

Nicotine replacements could have side effects, but getting advice on how to use an inhaler or a spray was the best way to lessen them, Dr Caldwell said.

"When people try it for themselves their views change quite a bit - it's not as bad as they thought it would be."

A majority of smokers decided to quit on the spur of the moment: it was important to reach them and give them good advice before they went cold turkey, which worked only about 5 per cent of the time.

Lower Hutt-based Kokiri Marae Health and Social Services and the Te Awakairangi Health Network are involved in the project, along with Porirua's Te Runanga o Toa Rangatira.

Karen Tutaki, who works as an adviser with the Kokiri Marae quitting programme, has been off cigarettes for three years and five months. She thought the stall was a good idea.

"We can show you how they [nicotine replacements] work . . . people say, ‘My friend told me you get nightmares,' or ‘The gum doesn't work'. They haven't been told how to use them properly."

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- The Dominion Post

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